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A painter once said, “The soul of art is inspiration.” I couldn’t agree more. I can’t count on two hands the number of times I continued to work on a shoot because I was inspired by the light, or got up in the middle of the night to brainstorm a shoot idea because I was inspired by the movie I just watched. Inspiration has a power to drive us artists in a way that few things can. This being the case, it is so important that we seek inspiration in our working and off hours.
Developing technology has blessed us with many opportunities to find inspiration and tuck it away for when it’s needed most. Sites like Pinterest or even flickr allow you to harness the power of visual imagery from blogs, sites, magazines, or even your own pictures. I’ll give fair warning to you though: Pinterest may become your next inspiration obsession.
There are few things more rewarding than finding ways to use your photos to support a cause you believe in. Generally most nonprofit organizations – especially the smaller ones – are ecstatic to have a photographer offer to assist their cause. Volunteer your services in whatever way they may need and you will grow as a person, as a storyteller, and as a photographer. Need ideas on where to start? Seth Godin’s “Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People who are Poking the Box and Making a Difference” is an incredible resource to help you brainstorm.
How often do we really just take the time to develop our craft? Many professional photographers agree that it’s easy to pick up a camera for jobs – but will do so on few other occasions. Take a challenge like 365 Project and push yourself develop the eyes to see art all around you – and share that with others.
There is a proverb that says “there is nothing new under the sun.” In the area of art, we create when inspiration and our own innovation collide. Discovering new perspectives is a critical part of our photographic development. When was the last time you went to an Art Gallery? Be it local or part of a museum, routine visits to an Art Gallery gives way for you to explore art through other artists eyes.
What things in life give you intense pleasure and enjoyment? Those are the things to take pictures of. We never grow tired of the things that we really love – that give us refreshment and perspective. Returning to these loves in both conceptually in the creative process and practically subject matter will make room for photographic exploration.
Camaraderie in creativity is a fantastic resource for our artistic development. Finding a photographic community – or creating a group yourself will provide collaboration, fellowship, and a lot of fun. With PUGs, FTP groups and more, there are plenty of opportunities for you to dive into a community.
Many of us have heard the old adage: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” So why is it so difficult to apply this to our art? Take a risk. Try a new idea. The real deal of art is to never put yourself in a box – so take steps outside your comfort zone with concepts, with shoots, with editing. You may be surprised by what new discovery you find yourself in love with.
Gone are the days of “trade secrets” and tight-lipped professionals who do everything in their power to stay on top. Today’s photographic industry is full of individuals who are more concerned with connecting and helping than the bottom line. Take some time to hunt down professionals in your area whom you respect and admire – both personally and in their work. After you have a small list gathered, contact these individuals and inquire as to if they would be willing to get together with you over coffee for questions and discussion. Who knows, while you may be looking for a mentor, that photographer just may be looking for someone to invest in.
It’s difficult to critique your own work – after all, you know the backstory, you are biased to the reasons why you took the shot, etc. In the past we’ve explored some ways to critique your own work, but sometimes we just need the strong, non-nonsense critique of others. If you have built a photographic community, or know a local expert, try to schedule a time they may be able to conduct a review and critique of your work. The feedback you gain will give some good indicators of specific areas you may need to develop.
If you really want to invest developing as a photographer, conduct a SWOT of yourself. Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats. Be honest and objective as you work this analysis, and then brainstorm a plan to maximize and grow each of these areas.